Fall 2012

1 - Thought for Food – Exploring the Connections from Farm to Fork
2 - Global Environmental Conflicts Viewed Through a Local Lens
3 - Why Do People Believe Weird Things?
4 - Morality Without a Magic Wand
5 - Games, Decisions and Economic Behaviour
6 - Rags Seldom Turn to Riches
7 - "Go Anywhere Do Anything": Responding to Global Humanitarian Crisis
8 - Should We Be Told What to Eat?
9 - Confronting Cultural Dilemmas
10/11 - Politics, Science and the Environment
12 - Confronting Cultural Dilemmas
13 - Current Topics in Biomedical Sciences
14 - The Dialogues in Human Rights in Changing Times
15 - The Making or Unmaking of a President
16 - Greed for Good: The Rise of Social Enterprise
17 - How and What Will We Eat on Mars?

1 - Thought for Food – Exploring the Connections from Farm to Fork

Mike von Massow

Demand for food is changing. Increasingly consumers are placing value on attributes that include where they buy it, how it is produced and who  s it.  This seminar explores the value chain that connects the farm gate to the consumer's plate and why it matters. Understanding the structure and complexity of the relationships throughout the value chain is a first step in improving the performance of the system bringing products to consumers that creates sustainable value. This seminar  will provide students interested in any individual element of the value chain (from primary agriculture to consumer insight and nutrition), with a comprehensive foundation in the complete story of food. The seminar is also an opportunity to exchange ideas and hear the perspectives of individuals who have  experience or an interest in different links in the value chain.

2 - Global Environmental Conflicts Viewed Through a Local Lens

Stefan Linquist

Natural landscapes are being transformed on a global scale to allow for industrial development and economic growth. Often these projects generate fierce opposition from environmental groups, concerned citizens, and indigenous communities. Stakeholders in these disputes  not only have conflicting values, but also diverge in their understanding of the relevant scientific and economic facts. The challenge for decision makers lies in weighing these opposing viewpoints to arrive at the most equitable and sustainable solution. Students in this seminar will investigate these issues through a combination of traditional academic study and first-hand interaction. The community of Guelph will serve as the extended classroom. Recent years have seen numerous environmental conflicts in this region, for example, over the creation of the Hanlon Creek Business Park and the Melancthon Township Mega Quarry. Students will engage in discussions with the industry representatives, environmentalists, district officials, scientific consultants and First Nations stakeholders involved in these disputes. By gaining a deep understanding of both the similarities and differences among these perspectives, students will develop strategies for tackling environmental issues of both local and global significance.

3 - Why Do People Believe Weird Things?

Ian Newby-Clark

Why do some people believe that aliens abducted them? Are the “abductees” simply fantasy-prone? Why do some people believe that the dead can communicate with the living, or that the movements of the stars influence human behaviour? Is it just "wishful thinking?" The science of psychology has good answers to these questions. Through provocative readings, lectures, demonstrations, and discussions students will learn how common errors in thinking and remembering can lead to beliefs in the improbable and impossible. Along the way, the methods of pranksters, pseudoscientists, and scam artists will be revealed.

4 - Morality Without a Magic Wand

Jean Harvey

It’s easy to think that living a morally reflective life is just for “saints” and that we have to be extraordinary people in order to take such a goal seriously.  This seminar will explore what moral commitment ‘looks like’ in real life, since there is a great deal of over-simplification in everyday thinking about this.  Moral heroes are not morally perfect!  Moral failures are not the end of the road (unless they are allowed to be) and so on.  This seminar will give us all a realistic vision of “the moral life” that is approachable and inviting. Student will have the opportunity to reflect about a famous person who has made a deep moral impression on them, by searching  out information on the life of the person, focussing particularly on the moral aspects (including character, achievements, temptations, failures, responses to failures, etc.).  Students will also argue for the claim that the chosen individual exemplifies moral commitment in some interesting way that is encouraging to all of us.

5 - Games, Decisions and Economic Behaviour

C. Bram Cadsby

How do people make decisions when faced with economic choices? How do those choices interact to produce consequences for small groups or sometimes the entire world? Economists and other social scientists have constructed theories of choice and strategic behaviour, often by making simple assumptions about rationality and self-interest. Do people really behave the way such theories predict? An exciting new approach to answering such questions is through behavioural experiments. An economist, Vernon Smith, and a psychologist, Daniel Kahneman, won the 2002 Nobel Prize for pioneering work on these problems. This seminar uses simple classroom experimental games to search for answers. Each of the games we play has been used by researchers to examine some aspect of economic behavior.  By playing these games, the students themselves create data, which they can then analyze.  This promotes thought about the reasons that they and their fellow students acted in a particular manner.  It also permits the students to compare their behaviour to the predictions of theories produced by social scientists about human behaviour in a wide variety of economic situations. They can also compare their own behaviour to data previously gathered by social scientists studying such behaviour in different populations and contexts.

6 - Rags Seldom Turn to Riches 

Michael Nightingale

This seminar is designed to explore the nature of inequality and poverty in Canada, the US and selected European countries, and why gaps exist between the rich and the poor.  Students will explore poverty from different perspectives: historical, political, economic, and social, compare differing opinions on why gaps exist between rich and poor and how poverty is described in literature, film and the media. Students will complete a group study project on a particular topic related to poverty (e.g. food banks, minimum wage) or a particular location (e.g. city, town or rural area) in North America.  The seminar aims to engage students in a way that will significantly enhance both students’ study skills and love for learning.

7 - "Go Anywhere Do Anything": Responding to Global Humanitarian Crisis

Susan Armstrong-Reid

Every year the international community responds to a number of new disasters and complex emergencies, as well as providing on-going assistance to humanitarian crises, which threaten the lives and livelihoods of millions worldwide. Nurses, the largest healthcare workgroup in most countries, encounter danger on a daily basis as first responders to natural disasters, civilian and military casualties in war zones and pandemics, especially within vulnerable and under resourced countries. This seminar focuses on the professional and personal leadership challenges that male and female nurses confronted in providing care, advocacy and promotion of health during a wide spectrum of humanitarian crises since the end of the Second World War. Nurses’ changing leadership and agency roles provide an important window for understanding the interconnectivity and increased complexity of global health governance in the 21st century. The seminar will use a multidisciplinary approach to examine the interconnectivity of global health determinants that shaped transnational nursing: the revolution in medical technology and drug therapies, the environment, power politics at all levels of the global health system, and the struggle for political freedom, social justice, gender equality, and basic human security requirements of food, shelter, and employment. The current global health crisis demands a new direction in global health governance, connecting local community and individual efforts to global initiatives. Understanding student leadership opportunities to change lives for a healthier planet is also a critical issue that seminar participants will probe, together with the goal of developing venues to share their journey with the wider community.

8 - Should We Be Told What to Eat?

Peter Purslow

We hear a lot about what we should, or should not, be eating. From health claims to factory farms, probiotics to trans-fats, production ethics to additives, there is a lot of concern about what we eat, how much we eat, and the way we produce, package and process it.   Much of the concern comes from conflicting opinions and advice, partly because there are vested interests at play.  In the media, food scares and health warnings are common – but then again, nothing sells like bad news. Everyone is a consumer, and the average consumer finds it difficult to find balanced and consistent information.

This seminar encourages students to examine the choices we have in the food that we buy and feed to our families and how it is produced. We will visit a local supermarket to see how marketing pressures and practices affect food choice at the retail level.  Through interactive discussion and self-directed research, the main part of the seminar  will examine a series of topics.

9 - Confronting Cultural Dilemmas

Alastair Summerlee

This enquiry-based seminar provides students with the opportunity to examine a variety of perplexing issues that emerge as a consequence of humans being creatures that by nature live in communities. The development of communities and cultures has meant humanity has developed images of itself, and the cultures and societies it has created, We will have the opportunity to study questions pertaining to race, ethnicity, and diversity, and to explore the boundaries of ethical frameworks, cultural toleration and human identity. The role that media, and indeed of language itself, plays in holding together or tearing apart communities, both fragile and robust, throughout history and across the world, will allow us to better understand the challenges of communication within and across cultures.

10/11 - Politics, Science and the Environment

Jacqueline Murray

This enquiry-based seminar provides students with a thematic approach to the investigation of the way that different societies deal with the environmental issues facing our world. It is expected to raise as many questions about the way we develop and use policy at the national and international level, as it will provide answers. The course is intended to provide research and communication skills to enhance students' ability to debate, analyze critically, and respect diversity of opinions about the environment and the ways that societies have chosen to respond to global challenges.

12 - Confronting Cultural Dilemmas

Jacqueline Murray

This enquiry-based seminar provides students with the opportunity to examine a variety of perplexing issues that emerge as a consequence of humans being creatures that by nature live in communities. The development of communities and cultures has meant humanity has developed images of itself, and the cultures and societies it has created, We will have the opportunity to study questions pertaining to race, ethnicity, and diversity, and to explore the boundaries of ethical frameworks, cultural toleration and human identity. The role that media, and indeed of language itself, plays in holding together or tearing apart communities, both fragile and robust, throughout history and across the world, will allow us to better understand the challenges of communication within and across cultures.

13 - Current Topics in Biomedical Sciences

Neil MacLusky

Over the last fifty years, advances in our understanding of cell and molecular biology have transformed biomedical sciences, leading to an increasingly rapid pace of discovery. The sophisticated nature of modern biomedical research, however, has itself created new problems, which society has yet to fully come to terms with. As knowledge of the fundamental processes of life becomes ever more advanced, discoveries frequently have political, moral and ethical implications. Scientists increasingly find themselves required to communicate their views outside the narrow confines of their own individual field of specialization, to become advocates for science and contributors to public health care policy decisions. This seminar  will provide students with the opportunity to investigate and discuss current issues in biomedical research, focusing on their broader, long-term implications rather than on the technical details of individual studies. We will explore 7-8 topics selected from the current biomedical science literature. Students will choose a scientific article relevant to each discussion topic, to present in class and provide a short written report for evaluation. All of the discussion questions will involve research currently ongoing at the University of Guelph, allowing students the opportunity to engage with faculty as well as more senior students, in developing their assignments.

14 - The Dialogues in Human Rights in Changing Times

Pat Case

Rights talk pervades our society and, as we know, the discussion tends to get very hot! These are just a few of the issues that are the subject of current discussion in Canada: Can young women who wish to take part in sporting activities be told that they cannot do so because, for religious reasons, they wear head coverings? Can a Sikh man wear a turban instead of a helmet while riding his motorbike? Do university courses have to be altered to take account of students with disabilities? Does a gym have to cover its windows so that young boys, who are members of a religious community occupying the next building, do not see scantily clad women? Can I set up a campus group that excludes queer students? Can employees take time off work so that they may pray? Can people who, for religious reasons, wear head coverings be denied employment in a hair salon? These questions and many more arise in the face of demands for human rights based “accommodation” in our society. In this seminar we will read about and discuss the legal, social and philosophical limits to “accommodation”.

But the problems do not end there. What happens when people who believe that society has gone too far in accommodating the “rights” of others decide to speak their minds about the subject -- can they do so openly? Would speaking their minds result in members of the group that they are discussing experiencing discrimination and what, if anything, can the members of that group do about it? Is the right to speak more important than the right to live in a society free from discriminatory speech?

15 - The Making or Unmaking of a President

Maureen Mancuso

The US Presidential election has been underway for well over a year--and some believe it started a few days after the last inauguration--but this fall it moves into high gear, and culminates on November 6. Four years ago, the soaring rhetoric of "change we can believe in" was a powerful message, and it helped to bring into the political process as voters a large number of traditionally-disaffected citizens, especially young and minority citizens. But that message also established very high expectations, and thus a low threshold for disappointment. How will the Obama campaign in 2012 be challenged and haunted by the promises--implicit and explicit--made in 2008? In what kind of change can Obama supporters still reasonably believe? How will his campaign change now that he must run on his record rather than just his vision? The republican campaign will focused on that record--especially the disappointing economic performance of the last four years. Will it be able to convince Americans to choose another kind of 'change'?

This course will track the final heated days of the US election and its immediate aftermath, focusing not on the horserace journalism of the media, but on analysis of the political strategies and tactics used by the candidates and their campaigns. What key issues will emerge and what cleavages in the electorate--men/women, young/old, 1%/99%, white/minority--will prove to be important? What will it take to win the presidency? Or is it more a question of what What must be done to avoid losing it? Once the votes are counted and a winner is declared, how will we look back on this election--as a watershed, or just the start of the 2016 cycle?

16 - Greed for Good: The Rise of Social Enterprise

Lisa Kellenberger and Kevin McDermott

You’ve heard of corporate greed...but what would happen if we used “corporate greed” for 
good?  In this interactive seminar, students will learn to creatively apply business principles to address social issues: anything from hunger to the environment, health, or community. In the last ten years, making money and doing good have come together in new ways that are changing both business and philanthropy.  Business is no longer just profit-driven: we are starting to chase a “triple bottom line” that also includes community impact and environmental change.  In this seminar, we will discuss the spectrum of business models from purely charitable to purely profit-driven and explore how blended models can be used to make meaningful and sustainable social impact.

Working with peers and community experts, students will become social entrepreneurs and 
develop a business plan to address a real issue in the Guelph community.  Students will consult with some of Guelph’s most connected business people and discover both their university and city while developing essential teamwork and leadership skills.

We will address questions such as: How do business practices help make not-for-profit 
organizations more accountable?  When we move socially-minded goals to the foundations of corporations, what does it mean for business?  It’s easy to measure dollars earned, but how do we effectively measure social outcomes?  This seminar is an opportunity to realize your innovative potential.  It’s part TED, part Dragon’s Den.  Craig Kielburger meets Donald Trump. Wall Street meets sweat equity. Bring your passions for change, money-making and creativity!

17 - How and What Will We Eat on Mars?

Mike Dixon

Extended human missions to the moon or Mars will require efficient technologies for crew life support. It is generally accepted that as mission duration increases and crews spend longer periods away from low-earth orbit, a higher degree of mission autonomy is desirable since re-supply of life support elements from Earth becomes prohibitively expensive. Bioregenerative approaches to life support can harness the contributions of higher plants, micro-organisms, fungi and perhaps insects and other animals to provide food, recycled water and air revitalization (CO2 scrubbing and O2 production). For short duration missions, air-revitalization may be accomplished with physico-chemical scrubbing of CO 2 from the atmosphere and food may be pre-packaged and shipped to crew members. For longer duration missions, the significance of the biological component of the life support system increases and the efficient recycling of gases and minerals among compartments of the bio-regenerative loop becomes essential to the sustainability of the mission.

Canada currently leads the world in research and technology development devoted to “biological life support” for humans on long duration space exploration missions. Students will be exposed to the broad scope of research activities and infrastructure at the UoG's Controlled Environment Systems Research Facility which represents Canada's main contribution to this field internationally. Discussions will focus on the technical challenges faced by space explorers and how the solutions relate to knowledge and technology transfer to Earth-based problems in issues from the environment to the economy. Students will prepare position papers and seminar presentations on relevant topics.